Burn Anne
"The Burn Anne" near Galston from the air in 2010

Northeast of Ayr and near the town of Kilmarnock the Old Red Sandstone lavas outcrop once again with deposits running north eastwards towards Edinburgh. Although some of these are agate-bearing many are not. The deposit of most interest is found near the source of the Burn Anne just south of the town of Galston. Although this is a small site it has provided some of the most colourful agates ever to be found in Scotland.

The Burn Anne is a small stream running northwest and draining into the River Irvine. It has provided a large quantity of beautiful coloured fortification and jasp-agate over the years and many examples of the stones collected from this site can still be seen in museums and private collections. The stone was also widely used in Scottish “Pebble” jewellery. In the past, and particularly in the nineteenth century, the burn was the site of substantial workings that comprised one of the only commercial operations ever set up to extract Scottish agates. Evidence of these old excavations can still be seen along the banks of the burn and in the surrounding fields.

It is also said that the area was extensively “mined” for agate by the local coal miners during the depression in the 1920s. The agate they found would mainly have been sold on to lapidaries in Glasgow and Edinburgh although some was sent as far afield as Cornwall. It has even been said that the earliest times agate was extracted from here was in Roman times but this has not been verified.

Burn Anne material mainly occurs as veins or “lenses”. The beautiful vein agate is found as brick-sized blocks of material within the soft, almost clay like, pale-green “rotted” lava. Occasionally specimens can be found that show a brecciated structure that has been re-cemented with the mineral Calcite. In many cases the most beautiful patterns and colours occur towards the edges of the agate. Matthew F. Heddle described the Burn Anne agate as being “altogether unrivalled in beauty”. The colour of the fortification agates includes red, orange, yellow and white and is associated with grey and pale purple chalcedony. Some of the most desirable material shows a white and yellow banding, and this is the classic “type” from this locality. The jasp-agate locally described as “moss” comprises beautiful patterned greens, greys, yellows and browns and it was this material that was widely used in Scottish Pebble Jewellery.

Because the agate veins mainly lie several feet below ground level finding any agates ay the Burn Anne is not easy and usually requires a lot of hard work.

Only a few dedicated collectors have, in recent years, been lucky enough to find any worthwhile material from this locality.

Between 1999 and to date some lucky individuals obtained permission from the landowner to use a mechanical excavator to carry out a series of digs at a number of different locations along the banks of the Burn Anne. As a result of these digs large quantities of many different types of this beautiful agate were extracted. Some of the agates extracted at the time of these digs are shown here. The thrill of digging up beautifully coloured and banded material straight from the ground and to be the first human being to see it is a priceless experience.

Though the coloured vein agate is the main find at Burn Anne, occasionally nodular fortification agates can also be found in the burn, surrounding fields and other locations around Galston. These are quite unlike the material describes earlier and generally more closely resemble agates from other areas in Scotland. These exhibit fine banding and vibrant colours and provide contrasting and unusual finds.

<The Burn Anne Digs



Occasionally in the surrounding fields it is possible to find more nodular agates:
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Below are some examples of the sort of agate that was found during the various digs at Burn Anne between 1999 and 2016


Some more recent finds from Burn Anne:




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